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Hidden dangers of lockdown

Thinking about the health of everyone in isolation, and the first steps towards engineering safe angling in the future

I know many of us are suffering by not getting out, but the reasons as to why we are in lock-down are paramount. It is with great sadness that I watch the daily news, listening to the reports of this dreadful virus and watching the awful figures rise, both for those who have contracted Covid-19 as well as the sad figures of those who didn't manage to survive it.
Devastated families, friends and even some communities and my heart goes out to each of them. We follow the rules and advice because that's all most of us can do to help; it might not be easy but it's a fact.
It's fantastic that most of us are obeying the rules and can see exactly why this is important to help reduce infection, illness and ultimately save lives.
Sadly, some are ignoring this, flouting the 'interpretation' as to what is, or isn’t, acceptable exercise and this is both selfish, as well as sad.

The immediate, perhaps even medium-term future will certainly change. Social distancing will have to stay in force and might even become part of our normal way of life; certainly until a vaccine is produced, and even then we will have to deal with the possibility 'mutated strains' of the virus.

But we also recognise that this 'solution' comes at a heavy price: people are suffering by being inside, only grabbing what exercise they can, where they can. However, there may be something we can do with a stringent set of regulations in place to offer the possibility of some form or recreational sports and pastimes to open up – partially – to help counteract the problems and dangers faced by us having to stay inside.

We know the Government are ‘gathering evidence' as to when, and how, some forms of recreation can be opened up. Golf, jogging, cycling, walking, rambling, bird watching, bowls are all 'mainstream' activities that could, with strict conditions, be opened up in a limited way and enjoyed safely.

Angling is another, and obviously the one that is closest to my heart, however it's not merely game angling we could consider, but the vastly more popular coarse and sea fishing branches of the sport.

Now, before I’m labelled “Here's another angler 'moaning and bitching' about not getting out”, please let me assure you I’m not. I am more than acceptable – and responsible enough – to accept the current lockdown requirements, and, indeed, have promoted them. However, I am also able to see the dangers in a long-term enforcement of this to many people, and not simply just anglers. 
Many are suffering because they can't, even in a limited way, participate in the things they love, with all the associated benefits they bring, including the most important of these: physical and mental health. Anyone who hasn't been affected by either of these can consider themselves to be very lucky.

Not everyone will be happy with restricted access to the activities we all love, but some access is better than none, and safe access is the most important thing we can do.
Angling options, I feel, might include a small list of requirements which might have to remain in place for a long period of time, perhaps even through the remainder of this whole season.

As we would need to be able to ensure safety, then I feel we have no option but to operate an 'angling by permit only system' to help 'enforce' a responsible, safe approach. Many would be unhappy with this, but consider what is likely to happen if we simply open angling back up; everyone is desperate to get out, which will lead to a lot of people in close proximity to each other, and the likelihood of a large increase in Covid-19, leading to another, long-term lock-down scenario. Not only would this set us back, but it would also be totally wrong, irresponsible and unworkable and leave us in a life-threatening and economically damaging position.

So, my suggestions as to what we could consider as options for some limited participation in angling for the immediate, and foreseeable future are as follows:

Permits: Permits could be purchased or issued by riparian owners, clubs, and associations for each 'session' daily and via electronic outlet means (ie, payment on-line, permit issued by email or text). 

Rules: Through the 'permit' certain rules and conditions can be set to include: parking areas, social distancing, etc. These would have to be limited to a maximum number of anglers on each given day / session to maintain social distance. (Eg. only two anglers per 'beat’; bank fishing only, to ensure there is no chance of using non-sterilised equipment such as boats or oars/engines unless this can be proven and, in which case, only single angler should fish in each boat (unless from same household). Separate travel would be a necessity, as would the use of hand sanitiser on any contact with gates, fences, etc.).
Stillwaters and lochs would need to operate on reduced angler numbers to ensure safe distancing.

Now all this might sound a little draconian, but it also goes a way towards ensuring we can access, travel and participate in our fishing safely, responsibly, and with thought towards others.

For me, travel distance is crucial, and although all of the above would be required to ensure safety when you actually reached your fishing of choice, restriction on how far you are permitted to travel is paramount. We know already the high possibilities of contamination spread through travel, especially if this is into rural places and communities where the infrastructure isn't in place to counteract this effectively.  

If we stayed local, then I’d suggest a maximum range of no more than 25 miles  to keep all drives limited and short, but also far enough to allow people within built-up areas the opportunity to reach some open space; limited as this may (must) be.

The 'permit' system would give anglers proof and evidence as to where they were going, why they were going there, and even how long a time they would be out.

I feel we’d need to endure such measures in order to gain some limited access to our chosen pastime without the danger of spreading this dreadful virus to others once again.

I'm sure there is so much more we could consider but then we run the danger of trying to please everyone, when it is clear this simply can't be done.

We also need to consider what is likely to happen if we simply open up again without strict restrictions; not only angling, but many other aspects of our lives. A second spike in infections – and potentially deaths – is very likely. Add to that the damage that would be caused by public opinion on whichever pastime is regarded as having opened without the proper steps in place to try and ensure ‘safe participation.’ Steps, yes, and rules to be enforced, probably too.

These are merely ideas and suggestions. Whatever we feel about going fishing, tackling the virus to slow and stop it is paramount but we also need to seriously consider the other ‘costs’ of keeping everyone in long-term lockdown and consider safe and responsible ways we can offer even the smallest of measures to help ease the other significant issues this pandemic has created.

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